740.00119 (Potsdam)/6–645

No. 27
Memorandum by the Assistant to the Secretary of State ( Bohlen )

top secret

Memorandum of 4th Conversation at the Kremlin, 6 pm May 30

Present: Mr. Hopkins, Ambassador Harriman, Mr. Bohlen
Marshal Stalin, Mr. Molotov, Mr. Pavlov
Subjects: Disposition of German Fleet
Meeting of Heads of State

. . . . . . .

Marshal Stalin said that they had received a suggestion from General Eisenhower 1 that a naval commission composed of the four countries should be set up to consider the disposal and division of the German fleet; that the American representative on this commission would be Admiral Ghormley and that he would name Admiral Levchenko as Soviet representative. He also said suggestion had been received from General Eisenhower 1 that it would be wise to expedite the establishment of the Control Council for Germany and that therefore tomorrow he was publicly announcing the appointment of Marshal Zhukov as Soviet representative.

Mr. Hopkins expressed gratification at this news. He added that he had a message for Marshal Stalin from President Truman 2 to the effect that the Berlin area was acceptable to him as a meeting place and suggesting about July 15th as the date.

Marshal Stalin and Mr. Molotov inquired was this not a mistake and was not June 15th meant, since June 15th had been the date suggested by Prime Minister Churchill in a very recent message to Stalin.3

Mr. Hopkins assured them that there was no mistake and that the President had about July 15th in mind.

Marshal Stalin said that as he had told them there was to be a parade in Moscow on June 24 th and that therefore it was impossible for him to accept Churchill’s suggestion of June 15th. He said he was ready to meet at any time after the 28th of June and that therefore July 15th was entirely agreeable.

Mr. Hopkins said that he would like to know the Marshal’s preference.

[Page 54]

Marshal Stalin stated that he could not do it before June 28th but would do it at any time in July and that therefore he thought July 15th was entirely acceptable to him. He added that he thought that possibly Churchill had the elections in mind and seemed to be in a hurry to have the meeting before the elections. He inquired whether Churchill might not think, if July 15th were selected, that we wished to await the outcome of the elections before meeting and thus cast doubt on the question of Churchill’s reelection.

Ambassador Harriman said that when he had seen Churchill in London the latter had said that in view of the absentee ballots the results would not be known for several weeks after the voting.

Mr. Molotov observed that there had been an announcement to the effect that July 27th would be the date on which the final returns would be announced.

Ambassador Harriman added that he knew that irrespective of the time of meeting Churchill intended to bring with him Mr. Attlee[,] the leader of the Labor Party[,] and Marshal Stalin repeated that he thought July 15 was a very suitable date.

Mr. Hopkins then said he would like to continue the discussion on Poland. He said first of all he would like to make a general observation. Historically speaking the people of Russia and, since the revolution, the people of the Soviet Union, had distrusted successive Polish Governments and to some extent the Polish people. Likewise, for many years the Polish people had feared Russia and since the revolution the Soviet Union. He said that [at] their first meeting he had indicated to Marshal Stalin as clearly as he could that the United States was not only not interested in the establishment of a cordon sanitaire around Russia but on the contrary was aggressively opposed to it; that the United States had no economic interests of substantial importance in Poland and that we believed that the United States, the Soviet Union and England in working together to help create a new Polish state that would be friendly to Russia could have an immense moral and political effect in the task of bringing about genuine Polish-Soviet friendship. He said that the Soviet Union alone working directly with Poland would find this a more difficult task and in those circumstances Poland might remain a troublesome and even threatening area for Russia. However, if the three nations genuinely get together and are associated with the creation of a new Polish state we believe that would have a most helpful effect in the establishment of a friendly and independent Poland which would be genuinely friendly to the Soviet Union.

Marshal Stalin said he agreed. That there was no intention on the part of the Soviet Government to exclude her Allies England and America from participation in the solution of this problem.

[Page 55]

Mr. Hopkins inquired if the Marshal believed it would be a fact that the United States and British participation would be helpful.

Marshal Stalin said that undoubtedly the solution would carry more weight if it was tripartite.

Mr. Hopkins said he would like to accent once again the reasons for our concern in regard to Poland, and indeed, in regard to other countries which were geographically far from our borders. He said there were certain fundamental rights which, when impinged [infringed?] upon or denied caused concern in the United States. These were cardinal elements which must be present if a parliamentary system is to be established and maintained. He said for example:

There must be the right of freedom of speech so that people could say what they wanted to, right of assembly, right of movement and the right to worship at any church that they desired;
All political parties[,] except the fascist party and fascist elements[,] who represented or could represent democratic governments should be permitted the free use, without distinction, of the press, radio, meetings and other facilities of political expression;
All citizens should have the right of public trial, defense by council [counsel] of their own choosing, and the right of habeas corpus.

He concluded that if we could find a meeting of minds in regard to these general principles which would be the basis for future free elections then he was sure we could find ways and means to agree on procedures to carry them into effect. He then asked the Marshal if he would care to comment in a general sense or more specifically in regard to the general observations he had made concerning the fundamentals of a new Polish state.

Marshal Stalin replied that these principles of democracy are well known and would find no objection on the part of the Soviet Government. He was sure that the Polish Government, which in its declaration4 had outlined just such principles, would not only not oppose them but would welcome them. He said, however, that in regard to the specific freedoms mentioned by Mr. Hopkins, they could only be applied in full in peace time, and even then with certain limitations. He said for example the fascist party, whose intention it was to overthrow democratic governments, could not be permitted to enjoy to the full extent these freedoms. He said secondly there were the limitations imposed by war. All states when they were threatened by war on [or] their frontiers were not secure had found it necessary to introduce certain restrictions. This had been done in England, France, the Soviet Union and elsewhere and perhaps to a lesser extent in the United States which was protected by wide oceans. It is for these reasons that only in time of peace could considerations [Page 56] be given to the full application of these freedoms. For example he said that in time of war no state will allow the free unrestricted use of radio transmitters which could be used to convey information to the enemy. With reference to freedom of speech certain restrictions had to be imposed for military security. As to arrest, in England during the war individuals dangerous to the state had been arrested and tried in secret; these restrictions had been somewhat released [relaxed?] but not entirely repealed in England since the war in the Pacific was still going on.

He said, therefore, to sum up: (1) during time of war these political freedoms could not be enjoyed to the full extent, and (2) nor could they apply without reservations to fascist parties trying to overthrow the government.

Marshal Stalin continued that he wished to give a few examples from Russian history. He said that at the time of the revolution the Russian communist party had proclaimed the right of freedom of religion as one of the points of their program. The Russian Patriarch5 and the entire then existing church had declared the Soviet Government an anathema and had called on all church members not to pay taxes nor to obey the call to the Red Army but to resist mobilization, not to work, etc. He said what could the Soviet Government do but to in fact declare war on the church which assumed that attitude. He added that the present war had wiped out this antagonism and that now the freedom of religion, as promised, could be granted to the church.

Mr. Hopkins said he thoroughly understood the Marshal’s opinions. He added that when he had left the Crimea Conference President Roosevelt had thought the Polish matter was virtually settled. He had been relaxed and pleased over the situation. Mr. Hopkins said he and all the other American representatives thought the same and felt that in very short time Mr. Molotov, Mr. Harriman and Sir Archibald Clark Kerr would be able to carry out the Crimea Decision. Since that time he had been sick and out of touch with Washington and had only followed events from the press and from personal letters which he had received from time to time. He must confess that he had been bewildered and disturbed that one thing after another seemed to occur to prevent the carrying out of the decision which all had thought was clear and sure. He said that if, with his knowledge, he had been bewildered as to the real reason for this it was easy to imagine how bewildered and concerned the masses of people in the United States were over the situation. Mr. Hopkins said that he must say that rightly or wrongly there was a strong feeling among the American people that the Soviet Union wished to dominate [Page 57] Poland. He added that was not his point of view but it was widely held in the United States and that friends of international collaboration were wondering how it would be possible to work things out with the Soviet Union if we could not agree on the Polish question. Mr. Hopkins added that for himself he felt very strongly that if we could find a meeting of the minds on the substance of what we wished to see in the new Polish state we should be able to overcome the difficulties. He himself had had difficulty in understanding the immediate causes of disagreement, namely interpretation of wording such as the role of the existing government in the future Provisional Government of Poland. He concluded that he felt that the three great powers should in a short time be able to settle this matter.

Marshal Stalin replied that this was true but it was necessary for all three Governments genuinely to wish to settle this matter. If one of them secretly did not wish to see it settled then the difficulties were real.

Mr. Hopkins replied that as far as the United States Government was concerned we had no interest in seeing anyone connected with the present Polish Government in London involved in the new Provisional Government of Poland and he did not personally believe that the British had any such idea.

. . . . . . .

  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. document No. 38.
  4. See document No. 39.
  5. The declaration referred to has not been identified.
  6. Tikhon (Vasily Ivanovich Belyavin).